With the announcement out of Washington about the 2015 budget, much has been made about the apparent presence of significant support for the development of more primary care practitioners in the years ahead. This support includes programs aimed to encourage medical students and residents to choose primary care as a profession, including loan forgiveness packages. Response in the press has already raised issues with this, suggesting that this move would do little ...

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Imagine -- where would elective surgery be today if patients still worried about operating rooms exploding or developing liver and kidney failure from anesthesia? Having major surgery would be a very different experience without anesthesia.  Before the advent of safe anesthesia techniques, the world of surgery was basically limited to amputations and other attempts at life-saving maneuvers.  Dr. Bigelow's publication describing the safe administration of ether changed everything, and the New ...

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I hear providers groan when we talk about the patient experience and some even tell me that they have no impact on the patient experience, that’s an administration problem. Nothing is further from the truth. If you interact with patients, you influence the patient experience. Some providers think a full waiting room is a measure of patient satisfaction. Actually, it’s a measure of how long patients will tolerate a long waiting ...

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Recently, I attended what may have been my last quarterly medical staff meeting at my local hospital -- ever. (I am retiring from medicine in ten weeks.) I certainly wasn't there for the food, although the fare was much better than the daily servings in the doctors' lounge. Part of the night's agenda was a rousing talk by the hospital's new chief medical officer (CMO). A retired surgeon, the CMO ...

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When I meet a new patient, I’m frequently astounded by the health care he has received. I’ve met patients with absolutely no cardiac symptoms who have been receiving EKGs every six months for years. I’ve had patients brag to me about their annual executive physicals in which myriad tests including treadmill stress tests and chest x-rays were routinely performed. Patients get head-to-toe CT scans under the mistaken hope that they ...

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As an intern in the neonatal intensive-care unit (NICU), I am one of several doctors who rarely see or touch the tiny patients we treat. We sit in a back room off a distant hallway, far removed from the babies, reviewing lab results and blood gases on the computer. Much of the time I feel like the Wizard of Oz, controlling a marvelous machine from behind a curtain. The only uninterrupted ...

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As a psychiatrist, I was trained to begin the mental status examination and overall assessment of my patient as soon as I greeted them in the waiting room. Even now, three decades after finishing medical school, I follow almost the same sequence of actions in my day-to-day interactions with my patients that I did as a resident in training. Granted, there are now electronic medical records and I rarely come ...

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A small case with big implications almost escaped my notice this week.  The Boston Globe reported a case in which a family sued after a 23-year-old man died after being diagnosed with a lung infection. According to the Globe, the young man went to one of the Boston Emergency Rooms complaining of cough, fever, and chest pains.  Ok, stop right there all you armchair diagnosticians.  What does this man most ...

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Well over a year ago, I advised my 80-year-old patient and her children that due to progression of her Parkinson’s disease.  Because of her frail nature, she needed a higher level of assistance and care if she wished to remain in her home.  She was extremely unsteady walking and several courses of physical therapy had not improved the situation. The patient was feisty and would only allow help to come ...

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In my core, I always loved doing surgery, and being surgeon to my patients. As I hope I've made clear in my blog, I was always amazed that I was allowed to do it, and awed at the mysterious beauty of it all. As much of a responsibility as it is, it's also an inexplicably wondrous honor and privilege. Those words aren't lightly written. But in a diabolical ...

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